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Feds: Sightpath Lured Eye Surgeons With Luxury Trips for Nearly a Decade

Mobile cataract surgery outsourcing firm allegedly took ophthalmologists on luxury skiing vacations and high-end fishing, golfing and hunting trips to persuade them to use its services.

Published: August 30, 2017

OUTSOURCED EYE SURGERY Sightpath delivers all the equipment, supplies and techs needed for cataract surgery to more than 850 facilities across the nation — everything but the surgeon and the patient.

Sightpath Medical and its former president, James Tiffany, have agreed to pay $12 million to resolve allegations that it lured ophthalmologists to use its mobile cataract surgery equipment and services with illegal kickbacks for nearly a decade, says the U.S. attorney's office.

Sightpath took eye surgeons on luxury skiing vacations and high-end fishing, golfing and hunting trips as a way to bribe them to use its mobile cataract services, according to a qui tam whistleblower case brought by Kipp Fesenmaier, a former vice president of operations for Sightpath's predecessor entity.

Sightpath provided the kickbacks for nearly a decade, from 2006 to 2015, says the government, which also accused Sightpath of entering into sham consulting agreements with physicians and their practices for services that were either never performed or not properly documented.

By knowingly inducing physicians to use its products and services in connection with eye surgeries paid for by Medicare, Medicaid and other federally funded healthcare programs, Sightpath violated the Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act, says the U.S. attorney's office.

Sightpath is the nation's leading provider of outsourced cataract services. Rather than buy a phaco machine and all the other supplies needed to perform cataract surgery, mobile cataract outsourcing companies bring the everything to you: the machine, the supplies, the IOLs and a tech.

Besides recovering the $12 million through the settlement, the U.S. Attorney's Office says it will pursue claims against some of the other defendants named in the complaint. They include Precision Lens, an intraocular lens distributor based in Bloomington, Minn., its president, Paul Ehlen, and Jitendra Swarup, MD, an ophthalmologist licensed in North Carolina and Virginia.

In a statement to Outpatient Surgery, Sightpath did not admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement agreement. Rather, it said, the agreement would enable the company to avoid "the delay, expense and uncertainty of litigation. We are continually reviewing and enhancing our compliance and conduct policies and procedures to meet the expectations of our customers and the requirements of our industry."

Mr. Fesenmaier will receive 19.5% of the funds recovered ($2.34 million) as part of the settlement, says the U.S. attorney's office.

Bill Donahue

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